Saints Game In London Spawns Business Recruitment Trip

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Top officials in Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration have traveled to London for a business recruitment trip timed to coincide with this weekend's New Orleans Saints game in the city.

         The governor's top budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, and Edwards' top business official, Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, are on the trip that began earlier this week.

         Louisiana's nine-person delegation also includes Pierson's international commerce division chief and private business leaders. The London visit is a joint event with the Committee of 100, a nongovernment economic development organization in Louisiana.

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         Delegation events began Tuesday and wrap up Monday, according to the governor's office.

         The Edwards administration didn't announce the trip in advance, but provided information about the visit and its participants in response to questions from The Associated Press.

         While in London, the Edwards administration said the group is meeting with representatives of companies who already do business in Louisiana, such as Shell Trading and Supply, Lloyd's of London, Drax Group, British Airways and British Petroleum.

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         Also on the agenda are meetings with companies "actively considering investment in Louisiana" and with British trade and energy officials. The Edwards administration wouldn't release details, citing confidentiality for economic development negotiations.

         The delegation is attending the London-based Saints game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, hosting "prospects" who are considering doing business in Louisiana, according to information provided by Edwards' office and Louisiana Economic Development.

         The trip was estimated to cost Louisiana taxpayers about $15,000 for flights, hotel stays and meals for the three state officials in the delegation. The economic development department said it intends to use its marketing dollars for part of the expenses. The other six members of the delegation were using private dollars to cover their travel costs.

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         Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser also is in Europe this week, visiting Germany and Britain for a separate trip to market Louisiana tourism, but the Republican elected official said he won't attend the Saints game because several players have refused to stand during the national anthem. Nungesser's trip also was not announced in advance, but his office has been posting photos from some of his meetings on Twitter.

         It wasn't clear how much Nungesser's trip would cost taxpayers, and a spokeswoman for the lieutenant governor's office didn't immediately respond to questions about the visit.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte


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